Information literacy | Page 4

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Measuring information literacy

A new report from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) attempts to measure the effectiveness of various information literacy (IL) initiatives.

The study involved 500 undergraduate students at Georgian College and tested four different models for IL, including providing specific information literacy courses, embedding information literacy into existing curriculum, online tutorials and non-mandatory tutorials. As they state on the announcement,

The study calls for institutions to adopt information literacy strategies that focus on teaching styles, delivery models, human resource requirements, outcome measurements and defining the benefits to student, institution and employer. Many faculty suggested more time be allotted to skill development as well as additional resources including online tutorials.

As may be expected, students’ comfort, accuracy and ability to utilize information literacy skills increased over their two years of study. While the overall results showed no single method of delivery to be particularly advantageous, the students who had information literacy training embedded in their course curriculum did show significantly higher ability to accurately cite source material.

The full report is available in PDF format (about 70 pages), as are the appendices.

Information literacy Inspiration

UNESCO launches Media & Information Literacy Online Course

UNESCO annonces the launch of an online course in Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue :

The course will focus on the following subjects:

Intercultural dialogue and citizenship;
Freedom of expression, freedom of information and understanding the news;
Representation and languages in media and information;
Advertising and citizenship;
Information literacy and library skills;
MIL and teaching/learning;
MIL policies and strategies;
Citizens and the media and technologies;
Global media/technologies in an increasingly connected world; and
Internet opportunities and challenges.
The course will be offered through QUT’s online learning system, Blackboard, and via Blackboard Collaborate. Most sessions will be self-directed, with ongoing interaction with the course presenters in the online space. There will be four ‘live’ sessions presented globally by international guest lecturers.

The course is free but enrollment is limited to 50 people. Applicants must fill out a form and submit it before mid-January 2013.

UNESCO and InfoLit

Of greater interest is UNESCO’s interest in IL. According to the United Nations agency :

This online course is part of UNESCO’s strategy to foster media and information literacy in societies, which includes:

Bibliographies Information literacy

A bibliography on business information literacy

You may already know that I have been working on a series of training videos for undergraduate business students – essentially an information literacy program for the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University. These videos aim to present research skills and eventually a reflective model on information seeking and use behavior.

To assist me in this process, I’ve created an open bibliography on the subject of business information literacy, covering recent peer-reviewed articles on the subject. Here is the contents of the folder, as of today:


Alessia Zanin-Yost. Designing information literacy: Teaching, collaborating and growing. New Library World, 113(9), 448-461.

Anna, M. J., Sproles, C., Detmering, R., & English, J. (2012). Library instruction and information literacy 2011. Reference Services Review, 40(4), 601-703.

Booker, L. D., Detlor, B., & Serenko, A. (2012). Factors affecting the adoption of online library resources by business students. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(12), 2503-2520.

Borg, M., & Stretton, E. (2009). My students and other animals. or a vulture, an orb weaver spider, a giant panda and 900 undergraduate business students …Journal of Information Literacy, 3(1)

Broadhurst, D. (2010). Never mind the width, feel the quality: The provision of library services to a global business school. Business Information Review, 27(3), 144-151.

Brody, R. (2008). The problem of information naïveté. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59(7), 1124-1127.

Campbell, D. K. (2011). Broad focus, narrow focus: A look at information literacy across a school of business and within a capstone course. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 16(4), 307-325.

Carlson, J., Fosmire, M., Miller, C. C., & Nelson, M. S. (2011). Determining data information literacy needs: A study of students and research faculty. Portal: Libraries & the Academy, 11(2), 629-657.

Catts, R., & Lau, J. (2008). Towards information literacy indicators: Conceptual framework paper. Paris : France: U.N.E.S.C.O.

Conley, T. M., & Gil, E. L. (2011). Information literacy for undergraduate business students: Examining value, relevancy, and implications for the new century.Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 16(3), 213-228.

Cooney, M. (2005). Business information literacy instruction. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 11(1), 3-25.

Crawford, J., & Irving, C. (2009). Information literacy in the workplace: A qualitative exploratory study. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 41(1), 29-38.

Decarie, C. (2012). Dead or alive: Information literacy and dead(?) celebrities. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(2), 166-172.

Detlor, B., Julien, H., Willson, R., Serenko, A., & Lavallee, M. (2011). Learning outcomes of information literacy instruction at business schools. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(3), 572-585.

Detmering, R., & Johnson, A. M. (2011). Focusing on the thinking, not the tools: Incorporating critical thinking into an information literacy module for an introduction to business course. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 16(2), 101-107.

Devasagayam, R., Johns.-Masten, K., & McCollum, J. (2012). Linking information literacy, experiential learning, and student characteristics: Pedagogical possibilities in business education. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 16(4), 1-18.

Dubicki, E. (2010). Research behavior patterns of business students. Reference Services Review, 38(3), 360-384.

Emmett, A., & Emde, J. (2007). Assessing information literacy skills using the ACRL standards as a guide. Reference Services Review, 35(2), 210-229.

Fiegen, A. M., Cherry, B., & Watson, K. (2002). Reflections on collaboration: Learning outcomes and information literacy assessment in the business curriculum.Reference Services Review, 30(4), 307-318.

Fiegen, A. M. (2011). Business information literacy: A synthesis for best practices. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 16(4), 267-288.

Frau-Meigs, D., & Torrent, J. (2009). Mapping media education policies in the world: Visions, programmes and challengesUnited Nations Alliance of Civilizations; U.N.E.S.C.O.

Furno, C., & Flanagan, D. (2008). Information literacy: Getting the most from your 60 minutes. Reference Services Review, 36(3), 264-271.

Gilinsky, J., Armand, & Robison, R. (2008). A proposed design for the business capstone course with emphasis on improving students’ information competency.Journal of Management Education, 32(4), 400-419.

Gross, M., & Latham, D. (2012). What’s skill got to do with it?: Information literacy skills and self-views of ability among first-year college students. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(3), 574-583.

Gunn, M., & Miree, C. E. (2012). Business information literacy teaching at different academic levels: An exploration of skills and implications for instructional design.Journal of Information Literacy, 6(1)

Hesseldenz, P. (2012). Information literacy and the evolving MBA degree. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 17(4), 287-299.

Hoffmann, D. A., & LaBonte, K. (2012). Meeting information literacy outcomes: Partnering with faculty to create effective information literacy assessment. Journal of Information Literacy, 6(2)

Horton, F. W. J. (2007). Understanding information literacy: A primer. Paris : France: U.N.E.S.C.O.

Hsin-Liang Chen, & Williams, J. P. (2009). Pedagogical design for an online information literacy course: College students’ learning experience with multi-modal objects. Canadian Journal of Information & Library Sciences, 33(1), 1-37.

Julien, H., Detlor, B., Serenko, A., Willson, R., & Lavallee, M. (2011). Preparing tomorrow’s decision makers: Learning environments and outcomes of information literacy instruction in business schools. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 16(4), 348-367.

Julien, H., & Given, L. M. (2002). Faculty-librarian relationships in the information literacy context: A content analysis of librarians’ expressed attitudes and experiences. Canadian Journal of Information & Library Sciences, 27(3), 65-87.

Katz, I. R., Haras, C., & Blaszczynski, C. (2010). Does business writing require information literacy? Business Communication Quarterly, 73(2), 135-149.

Kirkwood, H., & Evans, K. (2012). Embedded librarianship and virtual environments in entrepreneurship information literacy: A case study. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 17(1), 106-116.

Lahlafi, A. E., Rushton, D., & Stretton, E. (2012). Active and reflective learning initiatives to improve web searching skills of business students. Journal of Information Literacy, 6(1)

Latham, D., & Gross, M. (2011). Enhancing skills, effecting change: Evaluating an intervention for students with below-proficient information literacy skills. Canadian Journal of Information & Library Sciences, 35(4), 367-383.

Leigh, J. S. A., & Gibbon, C. A. (2008). Information literacy and the introductory management classroom. Journal of Management Education, 32(4), 509-530.

Lieberthal, S. P. (2009). Teaching undergraduate business students to access public company information: Assessing students‚Äô use of library resources. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 14(3), 230-247.

Martz, B., Braun, F., & Hughes, J. (2011). Business informatics and the information systems perspective: Implementing the IS 2010 curriculum. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 16(3), 229-242.

McKinney, P., & Sen, B. A. (2012). Reflection for learning: Understanding the value of reflective writing for information literacy development. Journal of Information Literacy, 6(2)

Md Zahid, H. S. (2011). Information literacy competency of freshman business students of a private university in bangladesh. Library Review, 60(9), 762-772.

Michelle, K. D., & Michael, T. O. (2011). Formative assessment: Transforming information literacy instruction. Reference Services Review, 39(1), 24-41.

Mottaghifar, H. (2011). Systematic library instruction in academic libraries: Cooperative learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business,3(7), 1181-1190.

Nazari, M. (2011). A contextual model of information literacy. Journal of Information Science, 37(4), 345-359.

Nazari, M., & Webber, S. (2012). Loss of faith in the origins of information literacy in e-environments: Proposal of a holistic approach. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 44(2), 97-107.

Payne, P., Crawford, J., & Fiander, W. (2004). Counting on making a difference: Assessing our impact. VINE, 34(4), 176-183.

Polkinghorne, S., & Wilton, S. (2010). Research is a verb: Exploring a new information literacy–embedded undergraduate research methods course. Canadian Journal of Information & Library Sciences, 34(4), 457-473.

Salisbury, F., & Sheridan, L. (2011). Mapping the journey: Developing an information literacy strategy as part of curriculum reform. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 43(3), 185-193.

Scharf, D., Elliot, N., Huey, H. A., Briller, V., & Joshi, K. (2007). Direct assessment of information literacy using writing portfolios. Journal of Academic Librarianship,33(4), 462-477.

Scott, M. (2009). Guidelines for broadcasters on promoting user-generated content and media and information literacy. London : England: Commonwealth Broadcasting Association; U.N.S.C.O.

Senior, H., Wu, K., Martin, D. M., & Mellinger, M. (2009). Three times a study: Business students and the library. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 14(3), 202-229.

Serenko, A., Detlor, B., Julien, H., & Booker, L. D. (2012). A model of student learning outcomes of information literacy instruction in a business school. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(4), 671-686.

Simon, C. (2009). Graduate business students and business information literacy: A novel approach. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 14(3), 248-267.

Strittmatter, C. (2012). Developing and assessing a library instruction module for a core business class. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 17(1), 95-105.

Toby, L. M. (2006). New forms of information literacy. Reference Services Review, 34(1), 156-163.

Tooman, C., & Sibthorpe, J. (2012). A sustainable approach to teaching information literacy: Reaching the masses online. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 17(1), 77-94.

Walsh, A. (2009). Information literacy assessment: Where do we start? Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 41(1), 19-28.

Wilson, C., Grizzle, A., Tuazon, R., Akyempong, K., & Cheung, C. (2011). Media and information literacy curriculum for teachers. Paris : France: U.N.E.S.C.O.

Xue Zhang, , Majid, S., & Foo, S. (2010). Environmental scanning: An application of information literacy skills at the workplace. Journal of Information Science,36(6), 719-732.

Yuhfen, D. W., & Susan, L. K. (2006). Teaching faculty’s perspectives on business information literacy. Reference Services Review, 34(1), 86-96.

You can access my open bibliography on business information literacy to download these records directly in your favorite reference manager.

Also, please let me know if anything is missing – the comments are open !

Gamification Information literacy

Angry Birds and an InfoLit Game

I enjoyed reading this post on a Chronicle of Higher Education blog, called: What Can Angry Birds Teach Us About Universal Design for Instruction? It gives a simple checklist of what makes this mobile game such a success:

Angry Birds involves practice without penalty.
Angry Birds offers the opportunity for constant feedback.
Angry Birds inherently teaches that different tools have different purposes.
Angry Birds has a built in mechanism for knowledge transfer.
Angry Birds rewards perseverance.
Angry Birds gives no time limit.

Also of interest is this post on an event taking place December 10th in Leeds, UK, called Making Games for Libraries, hosted by Andrew Walsh, who has written on active learning. He also is working on an <a href="" called SEEK!

Critical Thinking Information literacy Social media

Review of The Filter Bubble by Eli Parizer

I just finished reading The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser. It offeres a very interesting exploration into using various search tools and how we find the information that is central to our daily lives.

His main argument has to do with how “filters bubbles” emerge from the algorithms that supply the search results or news feeds for social media websites. Since 2009, Google for example supplies search results that are geared specifically to the user making the query. Gone are the days of obtaining “absolute” Google search results based on our terms (where everyone would see the same results). Now, the results we see are “relative” to our likes and features, as seen by Google – our browser, the location of where we are, and about 50 other variables Google uses to identify us as individuals. So, if two people type in the same keywords, they would see different results based on who they are. The Facebook “News Feed” works the same way, and Pariser has reason to believe that this is applied to other websites as well.

Here are some reading notes and quotes I found really interesting:

The filter bubble introduces 3 dynamics (p.9-10): “we are already in it”, “it is invisible” and “you don’t choose to enter the bubble”. In conjunction of how much information we produce, this leads to what Steve Rubel calls the attention crash (p.11).

On “our information diet” : “By definition, a world constructed from the familiar is a world in which there’s nothing to learn.” (p.15) In Robert Putman’s Bowling Alone, we are loosing (p.17) the “bonding capital” (being alike, creating bridges) and “bridging capital” (being able to talk to people not like us).

Facebook’s EdgeRank uses three variables: affinity (how much time we send interacting with someone); the relative weight of the content (relationship status updates vs. pokes); and recency (p.38).

“If trust i news agency is falling, it is rising in the new realm of amateur and algorithmic curation” (p. 66)

The CIA book on information analysis by Heuer (p. 81): The psychology of intelligence analysis also, check out this free version from the CIA website.

“Personalization can get in the way of creativity and innovation in three ways. First, the filter bubble artificially limits the size of our “solution horizon” – the mental space in which we search for solutions to problems. Second, the information environment inside the filter bubble will tend to lack some of the key traits that spur creativity. Creativity is a context dependent trait: We’re more likely to come up with new ideas in some environments than others; the contexts that filtering creates aren’t the ones best suited to creative thinking. Finally, the filter bubble encourages a more passive approach to information, which is a odds with the kind of exploration that leads to discovery.” (p. 94) Mentions The Art of Creation by Arthur Koestler.

Creativity generally has two parts: generative thinking (reshuffling and recombining) ; convergent thinking (survey options) (p. 103)

“If a self-fulfilling prophecy is a false definition of the world that through one’s actions becomes true, we’re now on the verge of self-fulfilling identities” (p. 112). […] “On sirens and children” by Yochai Benkler (p.112) “Autonomy, Benkler points out, is a tricky concept: To be free, you have to to be able not only to do what you want, but to know what’s possible to do.”

“fundamental attribution error. We tend to attribute peoples’ behavior to their inner traits and personality rather than to the situation they’re placed in,” (p. 116)

“In the future, we want to be all well-rounded, well-informed intellectual virtuoso, but right now we want to watch Jersey Shore. Behavioral economists call this present bias – the gap between your preferences for your future self and your preferences in the current moment.” (p. 117)

“Priming effect” (p. 124) – getting people to learn a sequence of words with a theme primes them to think in a way.

“With information as with food, we are what we consume. […] Your identity shapes your media, and your media then shapes what you believe and what you care about. […] You become trapped in a you loop” (p. 125)

“If identity loops aren’t counteracted through randomness and serendipity, you could end up stuck in the foothills of your identity” (p.127) – adapted from Matt Cohler’s “Local-Maximum Problem” – when trying to maximize something – try to go up a mountain, you should always rise – byt you could be stuck on a hill next to the mountain.

Overfitting: being stuck in a class that does not fit us – “a regression to the social norm” (p. 129) “But the overfitting problem gets to one of the central, irreducible problems of the filter bubble: Stereotyping and overfitting are synonyms” (p.131) The problem of finding a pattern in the data that is there and the problem of finding a pattern that is really not there.

David Hume and Karl Popper in the induction problem (p.133) All swans I see are white, therefore all swans are white.

“Fyodor Dostoyevsky, whose Notes from the Underground was a passionate critique of the utopian scientific rationalism of the day.” (p. 135) “But algorithmic induction can lead to a kind of information determinism” (p.135)

“China’s objective isn’t so much to blot out unsavory information as to alter the physics around it – to create friction for problematic information and to route public attention to progovernment forums. While it can’t block all of the people from all of the news all of the time, it doesn’t need to. «What the government cares about,» Atlantic journalist James Fellows writes, «is making the quest for information just enough of a nuisance that people generally won’t bother» The strategy, says Xiao Qiang of the University of California at Berkeley, is «about social control, human survailance, peer pressure, and self-censorship.»” (p.139)

“James Mulvenon, the head of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, puts it this way: ” There’s a randomness to their enforcement, and that creates a sense that they’re looking at everything.” (p. 140)

On governments manipulate the truth “Rather than simply banning certain words or opinions outright, it’ll increasingly revolve around second-order censorship – the manipulation of curation, context, and the flow of information and attention.” (p.141)

Sir Francis Bacon = “Knowledge is power” “If knowledge is power, then asymmetries in knowledge are asymmetries in power” (p. 147)

David Bohm On Dialogue “To communicate, Bohm wrote, literally means to make something common” (p.162-3) Jurgen Habermas “the dean of media theory for much of the twentieth century, had similar views”

«Kranzberg’s first law: “Technology is neither good or bad, nor is it neutral”» (p.188)

“In this book, I’ve argued that the rise of pervasive, embedded filtering is changing the way we experience the Internet and ultimately the world. […] Technology designed to give us more control over our lives is actually taking control away.” (p. 218-9)

“Appointing an independent ombudsman and giving the world more insight into how the powerful filtering algorithms work would be an important first step.” (p. 231)

Blended Learning Google Information literacy

Google’s Search Education

“Pssst… you may want to check out Google’s Free classes called Power Searcher…” said my colleague’s email. Although I know, use and teach many of Google’s advanced features, I could not resist to test-drive their online learning platform and initiative.

In a quick take, the site is streamlined and the tone is consensual, unscripted yet structured and slightly too slow. I also love the design of the class site, elegant and uncluttered, in true Google fashion :

Classes in a course

Lessons in a class

Lessons in a class

I also like the pace, or how all learning objects are integrated in the flow of the initiative. Each lesson, a 3 to 8 minute video, is followed by activities, usually multiple-choice of short answer questions. Learners are also called upon to open new tabs and perform steps outside of the environment.

Also, videos start with a slide, showed for 3 or 5 seconds, that cover the learning objectives/outcomes of the lesson. Daniel Russell, Senior Research Scientist at Google, provides for en engaging series of videos. Usually, the focus is on slides from a Presentation with his “talking head” in a smaller window – this is the same setup I use for my own training videos.

Now, the only criticism I can provide is the subtext of the presentation. Now, this is a corporate learning initiative, so I was expecting to get fed a lot of Google products (this actually – surprisingly – is quite pleasantly accomplished). But what slowly got on my nerves is that Daniel Russell assumes gingerly that everything you would ever wish to find is on the free web, indexed by Google.

To be fair, in one activity, he did point out that you may have to use another search system (in that case, a statistics database from a governmental agency) to locate your answer. Now, this issue is probably too much on my mind because I try to get University students to look beyond the free web for their papers…

Honestly, this criticism is very personal and I want to congratulate and thank Daniel Russell and the folks at Google for this engaging, interesting and relevant tour of their “Data garden” – Merci !

Critical Thinking Information literacy Inspiration

Reading notes: Information Diet by Clay Johnson

I just finished reading Clay Johnson’s book called The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption. The author provides for a light and interesting read, somewhere between a personal account, a self-help book and a deeper analysis of information consumption. I highly recommend it to anyone working on information literacy.

My favorite quote comes at p.120: “Hummanity’s darkest moments are the ones in which masses of people had the worst information diets.”

Johnson uses a driving analogy between the food we eat (i.e. our diet) and the information we consume. He quickly dismisses the phrase “information overload” as misleading – as with obesity, we are responsible for the information we consume :

It’s not information overload, it’s information overconsumption that’s the problem. Information overload means somehow managing the intake of vast quantities of information in new and more efficient ways. Information overconsumption means we need to find new ways to be selective about our intake. It is very difficult, for example, to overconsume vegetables. (p.26)

The author then points out, in chapter 3 (“Big Info”) that the major corporations in charge of producing news have slowly but surely affirmed their strategy to “give people what they want: entertainment and affirmation” (p.31) rather than balanced facts. Entertainment is self-explanatory but affirmation means providing reinforcement for pre-existing beliefs – neither ofwhich qualify as balanced fact-based news.

Still in chapter 3, Johnson covers “content farms” who aim to (1) drive traffic to a site, (2) maximize ad-revenue, (3) on low turn-around time with (4) a modicum of editorial quality (p.35). This leads new model is possible because of a software system called BlogSmith which looks at search queries in real time and identifies breaking, seasonal or evergreen topics. “It’s journalism, commoditized.” (p.36) He also decries in 2008 there were 69300 news analysts versus 275000 public relations specialists, creating a system where the professionals responsible for our news suffer from their own kind of obesity that leads to churnalism (p.40) – the tendency to plagiarize press releases and calling it news.

Based on this prognosis, Johnson dives in the social psychology behind our unhealthy information consumption habits in his forth chapter. “[D]elusion comes from psychological phenomena like heuristics, conformation bias, and cognitive dissonance.” (p.45) A heuristic is a rule of thumb, confirmation bias is the tendency to overvalue information that confirms our point of view (all the while disregarding what attacks it) and we hate cognitive dissonance – according to Wikipedia – “discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously.” Johnson even links searching to a dopamine inducing process: “We’re information consumption machines that evolved in a world where information about survival was scarce.” (p.51)

Johnson’ 5th chapter covers the central theme of his book: information obesity. “Through trial and error, our media companies have figured out what we want, and are giving it to us. It turns out, the more they give it to us, the more we want it. It’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop. […] The result is a public that’s being torn apart, only comfortable hearing the reality that’s unique to their particular tribe. […] It’s a new kind of ignorance epidemic: information obesity.” (p.54)

“The new ignorance has three flavors – all of which lead us to information obesity: agnotology, epistemic closure and filter failure” (p.58) efering to Robert Proctor, a historian at Stanford University, Johnson defines agnotology “as the study of culturally induced doubt, particularly through the production of seemingly factual data. It’s a modern form of manufactured ignorance.” (p.58) Similarly, epistemic closure is, quoting Julian Sanchez of the CATO Institute,

“Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of had because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.”(p.59)

Johnson states “Epistemic closure is a tool that empowers agnotological ignorance. As certain information is produced, all other sources of information are dismissed as unreliable or worse, conspiratorial” (p.60). Finally, filter bubbles refers to Eli Pariser’s eponymous book (The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You) and emerge from “the network of personalization technology that figures out what you want and keeps feeding you that at the expense of what you don’t want.” (p.61)

The first part of Johnson’s book closes with the symptoms of information obesity (chapter 6): apnea (how notifications of new email of text messages on your cell phone change your vital signs); a poor sense of time; attention fatigue; loss of social breadth; distorted sense of reality and brand loyalty.

The second part of Johnson’s book covers his “information diet” – and has the definite (and slightly annoying) tone of a self-help book.

Johnson’s 7th chapter covers data literacy – which has “four main components – you need to know how to search, you need to know how to filter and process, you need to know how to produce, and you need to know how to synthesize” (p. 80) For searching, he points out the value of government information. For filtering, he quoted from a Knight commission report called Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age.

Attention Fitness is the crux of Johnson’s 8th chapter. Willpower can be improved but only by measuring our current state and providing for an information consumption plan or budget. One must eliminate interruption technologies and focus on giving us some productive time while planning to spend time of social media a few minutes on the hour. This training can take time, increasing the amount of productive work in relation to distractive tasks – all the while keeping moments to pause or exercise.

Of course, having a strong sense of humor keeps us sane and allows us to consider all options – particularly the least probable or anticipated, as Johnson explains in his 9th chapter, quoting from Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind, MIT Press.

Johnson’s 10th chapter provides details on how to consume and proposes an audacious (but tongue-in-cheek) scheme to provide “nutritional” labels in information products – very much as we have for food. In reality, one should consume consciously, that is by controlling our information intake and its source. Keeping a clean habit includes such important advice as to cut one’s subscription to cable television in order to purchase items à la carte. Keeping a journal is also a good idea – as it provides measurable feedback. Other bits of advice include consuming local (p.108), low-ad (p.111), diverse – mainly Khan Academy, TED Talks and Kickstarter (p.113-5) and balanced (p.115) sources.

Johnson’s conclusion (Part III – Social Obesity) attempts to depict the how his scheme might impact the political and social climate in the USA. Of interest in Chapter 11 (the participation Gap) is his take on transparency’s dark side:

“You can simply claim to be transparent, and create a halo of honesty about you, without actually being honest.
Two factors empower this dark side of transparency. […] The first is the deluge of information and facts disguised as entertainment. Even the most open and transparent systems must compete with buckets of information that are more interesting. The second is our poor information diets – that we choose information we want to hear over information that reveals the truth makes the competition all the more difficult.(p.132)

Johnson continues:

“[T]he thruth is that citizen-focused transparency initiatives have a miserable track record of fighting corruption. And citizens have a miserable track record of using those initiatives to make rational decisions about the people they elect.
Transparency isn’t a replacement for integrity and honesty; it’s an infrastructural tool that allows for those attributes to occur – but only if the public is willing [to] act upon the information that they recieve as a result of transparency in a conscious, deliberate way.” (p. 134)

and :

“The greatest political ideas have come from the constant search for synthesis and pragmatism, and the foundation of democracy is constant public participation. (p. 137)

Our information consumption habits thus shape the economics of information production – that is how we can shape the future of available information at the societal level.

Johnson closes with a letter to programmers and software developers – the “new” scribes that rule our information world, with a call to get involved in local and social issues with their skills – to fix real problems.